THE TOP TEN PENNSYLVANIA STORIES
(in countdown form)
10. VOTER ID OVERTURNED
At the start of the year, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court voted to overturn the Commonwealth Court’s decision to enjoin Act 18’s photo identification mandate. A state judge ruled in January that the law, passed in 2012, violated the state constitution by imposing an unreasonable burden on the right to vote. The court found no evidence the law was necessary either to prevent fraud or to keep public confidence in the fairness of the election process. This ruling I believe was another factor in the defeat of Governor Corbett. Corbett had to pay for the incredibly stupid statements made by State Representative Mike Turzai that the new law would elect Mitt Romney as President in the 2012 election.
9. THE WINTER OF 2014
The weather was a huge factor in 2014. In Mid-Atlantic states like Pennsylvania, there were temperatures average below normal for the winter period (Dec-Feb). In general January and February were the coldest months compared to average for most locations. December and February were the wettest months, with well above normal precipitation being reported at all climate stations. January saw near average precipitation numbers. In terms of snowfall, all climate stations also saw above average snowfall for the period, with the Philadelphia to New York City corridor seeing the highest totals compared to average. For the months of December-February, Philadelphia even saw over 300% of their typical snowfall accumulation. Many locations (especially in LuLac land) have doubled or even tripled their snowfall compared to last year! To many the winter was relentless. There was essentially no break. Students had to stay in school until late June, Oil prices for home heating went through the roof and workers were less productive due to job stress and absences. The only person who appeared to benefit from this mess was Gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf who ran a barrage of TV ads when many Pennsylvanians were held hostage in their own homes by the cold and snow.
8. PAT TOOMEY WATCH.
As the Junior Senator from the state Toomey is being watched politically by all sides. The Democrats want to unseat him while the Tea Party segment in the state is making sure he doesn’t become a Schweiker-Heinz-Specter Republican. In the next year Toomey’s every statement will be under the microscope by all sides. Toomey voted for and defended the recent spending bill. Toomey also sounded a more than reasonable note in this interview with The Trib Tribune’s Melissa Daniels when he said, "Some have suggested that we ought to just let the Democrats learn what its like to live under the kind of regime that we've been living under. I'm not in that camp. I think the better thing to do is to rise above that, put it behind us. I've got a window of opportunity here to actually be a productive Senator. That is what I'm totally focused on." Toomey’s presumed opponent in 2016 is former Congressman Joe
Sestak but there are rumblings in the party that even though he came close, maybe another Democrat would fit the bill better. There is even talk of a primary challenge to Sestak who has announced. In my opinion this would all but insure Toomey’s re-elction even with Pennsylvania being dubbed a blue state.
7. PORN GATE.
Guys like porn. Sorry. There isn’t any one of us who hasn’t seen it at any time in our lives. But I hope a majority of us aren’t stupid enough to peruse it at work on a company owned computer. The scandal that rocked Harrisburg should come as no surprise to anyone because it indicated that the old boy’s network was well, an old boys network that was alive and well. And juvenile. While reviewing email accounts of members of the state Attorney Generals staff involved in the Jerry Sandusky child-sex-abuse case, investigators found numerous emails shared among state employees and officials that contained pornographic images.
Attorney General Kathleen Kane named eight current and former officials as having received, and possibly shared, emails containing pornographic material. The list included two members of Gov. Tom Corbett's Cabinet, Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Christopher Abruzzo and State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan. The scandal has subsided but one must wonder why anyone opened them, answered them or forwarded them thinking somewhere this might have no repercussions. Can anyone say dumb and dumber? Well it has been said before. So we’ll just go with plain dumb ass.
6. RESIGNATION OF SEAMUS MCAFERTY.
First he got suspended for being involved in the Porn gate scandal. Then he vowed to fight and be back on the bench. Seamus Mcaferty showed the same amount of colorful bluster and bloviation that he brought to speaking engagements. Making his bones as the Judge at Veteran’s Stadium meting out justice to unruly Eagles fans, McCafterty was in constant retrench mode when his name surfaced. Saying he would not seek Senior status he resigned in October with his investigation wax dropped and his pension remained intact. McCaferty was elected to the state's Superior Court in 2003, and followed that by winning election to the high court in 2007. This is big news because the resignation will leave the court operating with six members until a successor is nominated by the Governor and confirmed by the State Senate. That replacement justice would then serve until a new justice can be elected in November 2015.
5. THE GAS INDUSTRY
The Natural gas industry continued to be a story this year in the Commonwealth. As a matter of fact it was a campaign issue between Governor Corbett and then candidate Tom Wolf. Even Pennsylvania lawmakers from both parties have lobbied hard for a severance tax on natural gas drilling, their voices growing. But the gas industry fought back saying a tax would derail progress for the industry. Officials in the oil industry say it would stop job growth and is symptomatic of short sighted politicians trying to use the oil industry to fatten up the state’s coffers. Interestingly enough while Governor Corbett opposed a tax he did little to discourage legislators from speaking loudly about the issue. As 2015 approaches there will be a more heavily Republican Legislature and a new Democratic Governor who ran ads based on getting money for education underneath the ground. With all of that going on, let’s just say the natural gas industry will not recede into the background this coming year.
4, THE DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY
The 2014 Democratic primary for Governor started out with 8 candidates. Former Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection John Hanger was the first to bow out followed by Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski. Then Lebanon County Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz announced a run for Governor but couldn’t get the required signatures and then backed out. Former Auditor General Jack Wagner announced late but realized that most of the big money in the party was committed to three other candidates. Two Term State Treasurer Rob McCord got the early endorsements from party stalwarts and Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz got the backing of key people in the Philadelphia area. Katie McGinty, former State Environmental Protection Secretary ran an energetic campaign but the thought was she’d split the votes that would go to Schwartz. Then there was former Revenue Secretary Tom Wolf who ran as, well, a lone wolf. He traveled the state in 2013, got some key Democrats to work for him, spent a ton in the money in the primaries, was blessed with a terrible winter that kept Pennsylvanians in front of their wide screens and was fortunate to run against opponents who took him and the Democratic electorate for granted. Schwartz was regarded as too left leaning to win a general, McCord was very strident in his attacks on Wolf and McGinty seemed to be the voice of reason in the debates as Tom Wolf was hammered by the Congresswoman and the Treasurer. Wolf won in large part because he spent money early, was calm and reasoned, connected with people on the campaign trail and seemed the most likely to rattle Tom Corbett. Most thought it would be close, Wolf won with 58 percent of the vote, followed by Rep. Allyson Schwartz with 18 percent. State Treasurer Rob McCord at 17 percent, and Secretary Katie McGinty closing out the race was at 8 percent. The primary set the stage for a historical Gubernatorial showdown in the fall.
3. THE TENURE OF KATHLEEN KANE
At the start of 2014, Kathleen Kane was being mentioned as a candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2016. (Kane was voted one of The LuLac Women We Love in 2013 by our readers.) By the end of this year she seems to be in the fight of her political life. To say she’s had a rough year is an understatement. Let’s start with the probe into the e mails from the Sandusky case. She uncovered the emails, but tried a little too hard to fault Tom Corbett for the Sandusky scandal. Now she's haunted by accusations she selectively released the emails for political advantage. Kane also did not prosecute charges against State Reps. Vanessa Lowery Brown and Ronald G. Waters for allegedly accepting cash from an undercover operative. Philadelphia DA Seth Williams is now pursuing the matter. Kane then decided not to defend a recently passed gun law that allows lawsuits against municipalities that enact gun laws harsher than state laws. Her critics said she failed to once more fulfill her constitutional duty to defend the Commonwealth and the people who elected her. Kane then went on CNN to speak about the porn e mails and then inexplicably said they involved child porn. She had to walk that statement back. By the end of the year Philadelphia Congressman Bob Brady said Kane was asleep at the switch and said he had no confidence in her ability to handle the job. That signals to me that Kane may have a primary opponent from the Philadelphia area. Say a guy named Seth Williams!! Then of course Kane publicly confirmed that her office was under investigation for a leak of grand jury information in a previous case. If that’s not bad enough Kane was involved in an auto accident that sidelined her for a few weeks. She took a lot of heat for that but an accident is beyond her control. An announcement came then that her 14 year marriage was breaking up. At year’s end State Representative Darryl Metcalfe called for her impeachment. Kane won her election with the support of former President Bill Clinton who was also impeached. Kane has to be hoping that Darryl Metcalfe will be her Ken Starr. Still with all of this going on Kane’s office continues to hum along better than ever and she announced she will indeed stand for re-election as the only woman and only Democrat to hold that office since it was turned over to the voters in 1980.
2. ELECTION 2014...CORBETT DEFEATED. WOLF BREAKS THE CYCLE
The 2014 election for Governor breaks down this way. Tom Corbett popularly elected by a majority of Pennsylvanians (54% to 45%) in 2010 never seemed to gain traction with his constituents. Many say Corbett did not lead Pennsylvanians and educate them as to his policies. Corbett never seemed to give people a reason to give him another term. Tom Wolf seemed an acceptable alternative. The sentiment against Corbett was so deep and widespread that this was all Pennsylvanians needed to make a change.The election was historic because Wolf broke the 8 year cycle. Started in 1954 the office of the Governor was held by each party for eight years. Wolf broke that cycle with his win. Interestingly enough, Wolf won by the same margin Corbett did four years earlier with 54% of the vote to Corbett’s 45%. Corbett made a little history on his own becoming the first ever Governor not elected to a second term. The State Constitution was changed in 1968 to allow a Governor to serve 2 terms and Corbett became the first one in a line of 5 previous Governors not to accomplish that goal.
1. KILLING OF STATE TROOPERS AND CAPTURE OF THE ASSAILANT
It was a Friday night. The fall in Pennsylvania. Most eyes were focused on high school football games and the start of a nice weekend. That calm was shattered when two state troopers were brutally attacked by Eric Frein a self styled survivalist who went on the lam immediately after doing his damage. The attack happened just before 11 p.m. Friday at the State Police barracks in Blooming Grove, Pike County, just off Interstate 84 near Lake Wallenpaupack. Bryon Dickson who was killed was a seven year State Police veteran who recently transferred to the Poconos from Philadelphia. Alex Douglass was injured in the attack and is still recovering from his injuries. After the attack on September 12th, Frein — described by authorities as a self-taught survivalist with a grudge against police — had been on the run but was captured on the night of October 30th in a deserted airport hanger that “the survivalist” used with most of the comforts of home. The shooting gained national attention right from the start. Frein has lawyered up and I’m sure is cooking up some kind of case now to try and get away with his crime.
Sources: Weather Channel, CNN, Philly.com, LuLac archives).